Cert: 15 / 120 mins / Dir. Neill Blomkamp / Trailer
You've got to hand it to Neill Blomkamp, he doesn't exactly go out of his way to make his films likeable. Following in the footsteps of District 9 and Elysium comes Chappie, still in a dystopian South African setting, but more '20 minutes into the future' than flying cars and space-stations.
In a similar vein to Alex Garland's Ex Machina, Chappie doesn't spend much time postulating whether its central character can be classed as 'alive' or not, but looks more at the behavioural effects impressed upon a non-human being raised by humans (I was going to say 'deeply flawed humans', but in this film at least, there are no other kind).
First and foremost though, Chappie himself is outstanding. The visuals of the robot are so naturalistic that you instantly forget you're watching an animated character (and props to Dev Patel, Ninja and Yolandi Visser for supporting this so well). Sharlto Copley arguably brings more humanity and wonder to his role than the rest of the cast manage; maybe that's the point?
The problem (okay, my problem) is that writer/director Blomkamp can't seem to commit to the philosophical points he raises in his script about society, the nature of morality and the Promethean acts of Chappie's creator, Deon*1. However, the film also struggles to become the loud actioner that Elysium was, and the pantomime performance of Hugh Jackman (as the stupidest military strategist you'll ever meet) repeatedly knocks the film down a gear.
Oh, and it's nice to know that the next generation of automated law enforcement will be created in a manufacturing facility still running Windows XP on its machines (the PS4s featured heavily in the film put a fairly firm timestamp on when it's meant to be happening, and they're not even the most blatant or embarrassing product-placement Sony could wangle into the film).
40% Robocop, 40% Short Circuit and 20% Ali G (just to stop you liking it too much), Chappie is a fascinating film which pulls a few too many of its punches.
But by this point, you're either on Neill Blomkamp's bus or you're not. He's making films for himself first, his fans second, and to hell with them being mainstream friendly. Which already makes Chappie one step closer to pure art than most movies you'll seen this year.
Spoilery question for those of you who've seen the film: Why does Chappie flip out at being lied to by Ninja as if he's only just discovered that it's a human trait? When Ninja asked Chappie about the doll he was hiding behind his back, the first thing he did was say 'it's nothing' (probably more out of embarrassment, admittedly), so he's already got 'deceit' on his CV, surely?
If you're a fan of District 9 and Elysium, yes it is..
A rental should do you.
In Sharlto Copley's case, it just might.
I think it almost does.
No, I know it won't be to everyone's tastes.
Chappie's maker is played by Dev Patel, who also stars in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series alongside Celia Imrie, best known of course for her portrayal of Naboo pilot Bravo 5 in The Phantom Menace…
*1 Indeed, on the 'Prometheus' front, there's no caution, pride, regret, punishment or redemption. But to be fair, that's because Blomkamp hasn't re-made Frankeinstein, I suppose.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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